Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing a federal investigation into his use of COVID relief funds to bankroll the controversial flights of asylum seekers from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard as part of his effort to “transport illegal immigrants to sanctuary destinations.”
At issue is whether millions of dollars in interest earned on State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, disbursed through the American Rescue Plan, was used to facilitate the transport of about 50 Venezuelans from Texas to Massachusetts in mid-September, with a stopover in Florida on the way.
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The recovery funds program has strict requirements on how the money can be spent. Documents indicate Florida officials paid Destin, Fla.-based Vertol Systems Co. $1.56 million for the Martha’s Vineyard flight and possibly for a flight to Delaware, the home state of President Biden, which ultimately didn’t happen.
The Treasury Department said the probe will “review the allowability” of states diverting pandemic aid for “related to immigration,” Richard Delmar, deputy inspector general for the Treasury Department, wrote in an Oct. 7 letter to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who requested the investigation.
Markey said DeSantis was “effectively using COVID-19 relief to score political points by exploiting vulnerable immigrants while the White House has called the trip to Martha’s Vineyard a “cruel, premeditated political stunt.”
Delmar did not indicate when the investigation would be complete. Other law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. have also launched investigations of migrant trips arranged by Republican lawmakers to Democratic strongholds.
Just last week, New York City Mayor Adams declared a state of emergency over the thousands of migrants being sent from southern border states since the spring, saying the demand being put on the city to provide housing and other assistance is “not sustainable.”
“New Yorkers have always looked out for our immigrant brothers and sisters. We see ourselves in them. We see our ancestors in them,” he said.
But, he said, “though our compassion is limitless, our resources are not.”
With New Wire Services
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